The day of benchmarking motherboards has really become the benchmarking of chipsets. Motherboards are more classified by their chipset than anything else, especially when you’re dealing with a chipset manufactured by Intel. Performance from board to board is roughly the same and 95% of the Intel-based motherboards out there are super stable these days. Sure, motherboard manufacturers have thrown in such features as 5.1 audio and IDE RAID, but lets face it the motherboard industry isn’t as exciting as say graphics or CPUs.
AOpen is out to change this. Going beyond simply bundling more off-the-shelf features into their motherboards, they went outside the box to create the AOpen AX4B-533 Tube motherboard.
AOpen Tube badge
This Pentium 4 Socket 478 motherboard is equipped with Intel’s 845E chipset with onboard sound and Ethernet. By itself that isn’t too remarkable but then AOpen added “the” tube. In a remarkable juxtaposition of the new and old, AOpen added a vacuum tube audio output to their state-of-the-art Pentium 4 motherboard. Vacuum tubes haven’t been used in computers for decades. Their main use currently is in high-end audio. Just like how vinyl records have retained a devoted following, the same is true for vacuum tube audio.
AX4B-533 Tube Motherboard
Rather than dwelling over your usual motherboard features, this review will focus on what differentiates the AX4B-533 Tube from the competition. First let’s see what this board brings to the table.
CPU - Intel Socket 478 Pentium 4 1.4GHz-2.4GHz+ with 400/533MHz FSB
Chipset – Intel 845E (Brookdale) chipset
Integrated Ethernet, USB 2.0, 5.1 audio
Expansion – 3 PCI slots, 1 AGP 4x
Memory – 3 DDR DIMM slots
Ethernet – Intel 82562ET/EM PHY 10/100mbs
Sound – Realtek ALC650 AC97 chip
Tube – Sovtek 6922 Dual Triode tube
- Pentium 4 2.4GHz courtesy of Google Gear
- 128MB Samsung PC2100 DDR
- ATI Radeon All-In-Wonder AGP
- IBM Deskstar 40GB HD
- Logitech human interface devices
- Denon Receivers with JBL bookshelves and custom sub
- Sennheiser headphones
Having only 3 PCI slots at first seems limiting, but with the majority of functions already integrated into the motherboard, they should be adequate. I did notice that the onboard 10/100 Ethernet card was noticeably slower than my standalone card, but it might just be some incompatibility with my network. USB 2.0 is a great new technology and its inclusion is welcome, the only thing better would have been onboard Firewire.